Paired determinations of COHb and VeCO were performed on 30 term infants (38 to 42 weeks' gestation) and 26 preterm infants (28 to 37 weeks' gestation) during the first week of life. All subjects were breathing room air at the time of the study. Values of COHb were corrected for RAco by linear regression of COHb (percent saturation) vs RAco (ppm). Regression coefficients for term and preterm infants with no history of pulmonary impairment were nearly identical (COHb = 0.175 RAco + 0.45, r = 0.77, n = 25 for term infants; COHb = 0.168 RAco + 0.51, r = 0.82, n = 9 for preterm infants) and agreed well with theoretical values. For the group of term infants, linear regression of Veco (microliter/kg/hr) vs. COHbc, where COHbc = COHb - 0.17 RAco, resulted in VEco = 23.4 COHbc + 4.02, r = 0.75, n = 30. The corresponding relationship for preterm infants with no history of pulmonary impairment was VEco = 24.7 COHbc + 3.85, r = 0.61, n = 13. For a subpopulation of preterm infants with a history of pulmonary dysfunction, the correlation decreased significantly, with VEco = 4.34 COHbc + 17.6, r = 0.097, n = 11. These results demonstrate that (1) COHbc is a reasonable index of VEco and consequently of the heme catabolic rate in both term and preterm infants with no clinical history of pulmonary dysfunction and (2) inference of VEco from COHbc may be misleading in certain cases without a consideration of the factors relating these two variables.